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 Overlord
There’s some strange satisfaction surrounding being evil in games. Whether you’re taking your place as the Dark Lord of the Sith in Knights of the Old Republic or just sending penguins to their untimely death in Mario 64, playing the bad guy is fun. Thankfully Codemasters have cottoned on to the fact most gamers have an insatiable desire to be wicked and released a new take on the Real Time Strategy genre, Overlord.

Taking the role of the titular Overlord the player begins in an old ruined tower that has been plundered of its magical artefacts. It’s your job to retrieve these artifacts which were lost or stolen when your previous incarnation was destroyed, in order to regain your power and evil domain.

Your Tower acts as a central hub, from which you can teleport to each land in search of your former possesions. As you and your minions recover the stolen loot, new rooms and spells also become available, and your Overlord's health and magic power increase. Players can customize the tower with items found across the land and Armour and weapons can be purchased or improved in the Tower’s forge. Any enemies you defeat appear as opponents in the dungeon, an arena where you can fight them again if you feel like pummeling them over and over again.

And where would any evil Lord be without minions to carry out your dastardly plans? Worry not, for you have a race of Goblins to command as you wish. And seeing as an Overlord doesn’t like to get his (or her) hands dirty you can leave it to your minions to do all the menial tasks like killing sheep, smashing pumpkins or pushing obstacles out of your path. Controlling these wicked little creatures is a piece of cake as they automatically home in on any objects in the path you set them. They even equip items as and when they come across them, whether they’re useful or not, powering up their attacks or defences or just using superficial decorations, such as a pumpkin on their heads.

The animation and characterisation of these creatures is deliciously wicked; think Lord of the Rings Orcs meet Gremlins. As is the rest of the presentation, which leans towards cartoonish fantasy, offset nicely by your evil rabble. From the outset the team at Codemasters have designed a game that looks and plays differently to anything else in the genre, certainly in terms of PC Games. In fact the closest equivalent would have to be Nintendo’s Pikmin which does appear to have been a clear influence as far as gameplay and structure are concerned.

The similarities are quite obvious, not that this should detract from the game, especially for PC or 360 owners who have never had the pleasure of drowning 100 Pikmin. You control your Overlord as you would Captain Olimar, although Captain Olimar didn’t have a big sword to smite his enemies with or magical spells to burn or crush those that got in his way. The area you can explore is initially small but any obstacles can be cleared by pointing enough minions towards them. A little counter even pops up above it signifying how many of your horde are needed to push or smash it. As your evilness increases, you are able to take more minions with you and even find some with special abilities just like Pikmin.

It also uses a corruption system similar to Fable of KotOR, which judges your performance depending on how evil you have been during the course of the game. Sparing the lives of a few peasants can come in handy later on but you are mainly rewarded for doing nasty things. Ultimately your rating affects the ending and which spells you can unlock, so there is quite a bit of replay value even if the length of the game may not prove too much of a challenge to some.

Overlord has an undeniable charm that will bring you back to its world long after you complete your evil destiny and it will certainly plug an evil-sized gap for any games twiddling their thumbs until the rush of big titles in the Autumn. Whether you choose to go with the PC or 360 version you’ll soon discover being evil has never been so fun.

8.5 out of 10

Buy Overlord now at Play.com
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